Josephine Heilpern | Episode 350
Josephine Heilpern is the founder of Recreation Center- a ceramic studio in Brooklyn, New York. Josephine loves to experiment in her studio in order to come up with original designs. Josephine’s work has caught the attention of numerous like The World of Interiors, bon appetit, Sight Unseen, and many more. In a feture article in Frame Work magazine, Josephine said, “I wanted to make things that were functional, could be used everyday, and were affordable – to me, that’s really important.”
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How do you go about finding the like-minded place for your work?
I am definitely a super-internet based person. I think it’s really just cruising the internet and seeing what’s out there and figuring out where do I fit into this world that exists. And where do I find people that might like what I make. Making sure I am up to date with the trends that are happening in art and in fashion and to be educated in that way.
How do you find and get in front of the actual decision makers?
At this point, I am a decision maker. (laughter) I am the decision maker. I will tell you if I want to sell with you or not. That’s the truth and it sounds kind of crazy but before it was just pushing and pushing and making sure I have the right emails but right now I am lucky enough right now to say that I make the decisions. I will tell you if I want to be part of the store and if we have a brand compatibility.
How do you address any objections to whether your work would fit or not?
It happened a lot with the material. I use rubber in my work, like the handles are all dipped in rubber and that is something that people said, Oh I don’t know about that. Because it has to be hand-washed and I don’t know if my customers are OK with hand-washing their ceramics. Which is actually kind of crazy to me because I don’t have a dishwasher. But I think I am pretty good at convincing people it is going to work. But I am also very quick to say, If you don’t want this I can find someone else. (laughter)
Do you have a script in mind when you approach a potential customer?
No, not really. If you have worked with me in the past you know that I am insanely casual about how I present myself. There are usually a lot of smiley faces in my emails and I don’t punctuate. I definitely don’t have a script. I think it is really just about being personal with a person. It’s really just about being human and presenting yourself as a human. I think people are really craving that in a world where things are very non-human.
How do you get to the point of calling your buyers to action?
I have a little bit of a background in art dealing where I had to convince people to buy really expensive works of art. I travelled around doing this with my old job. I think because of that I am able to again present myself in a really human way and I think that also helps. Being like, You want this because I made this. It is actually not very common that I have to do that. I feel like if I have to convince someone to buy what I am making it is not really worth it. If you want it, get it. If you don’t, don’t. But it does happen when I am doing one to one sales at the studio to like talk to people that are here and show them that I am a human trying to survive in this crazy city and in this crazy world and I am really putting my heart and soul into what I do. I work seven days a week, all day. This is my passion. I can’t imagine doing anything else.
It is said that 84 percent of people that you are trying to sell to are really responsive after you have been recommended by someone else. How often do you use references in order to get in with potential stores?
I don’t know if it happens so much within stores but it definitely happens within my one to one customers. I will get an email from someone that says, I went to my friend’s house and stayed with her for the week-end and I only wanted to use your mug. So it happens in that way. I think there is also an idea of branding and being a brand. I don’t have to do much because capitalism exists and we often want what other people have. (laughter) It gives me so much pleasure when I hear a story like that, Oh I saw your stuff at this person’s house and it was so beautiful and I want one now.
You mentioned that you like to dip your handles in rubber. Why?
So I actually don’t know where the rubber came from. Again, I come from an art background so I remember going to Home Depot a lot and not knowing what I needed for a project, just knowing I am really material based. I love material. I love the way things feel and the way things look. I have a little collection of things that I like and I remember going through Home Depot and seeing this can of yellow industrial rubber when I was in college. And I think it just stuck with me. It’s a bright yellow and I like the way it feels. Rubber just feels so good. It has a weird feeling and it also really unpredictable as is ceramics. I made a drawing of a dot mug with a yellow handle and I was like, Oh I should dip it in that yellow rubber that I like so much. And it just happened. With ceramics it is so much the way we interact with the object. The way it feels on your lips, the way it feels in your hand. The rubber has one feeling and the glaze to your lips has another feeling. The liquid inside the cup has another feeling. I like to leave a lot of things raw so the rims of the cups are always raw clay and I use a lot of wax resist. Which also leaves a lot of raw clay spaces.